Alfa Romeo 4C Coupe06 | 01 | 2016Scotcars rating

    Fancy a workout? Have a blast in the Alfa Romeo 4C ... and you'll certainly turn heads

    ALFA ROMEO — by edict from Sergio Marchionne, head of the Fiat empire — is to become a more pure premium, upscale brand; hence the debatable decision to hand over the Italian auto group’s interpretation of Mazda’s accessible MX-5 to Fiat for a latter day 124 Spider, and later an Abarth counterpart.

    That means no more heavily disguised and stylised Fiats as future cars bearing the charismatic serpent/four leaf clover badge will tap into advanced Ferrari technology and Maserati production facilities.

    But some enthusiasts with long memories might argue that by not taking the small roadster route, Alfa Romeo is squandering a tangible heritage dating back to Dustin Hoffman’s iconic red Spider in the seminal movie, The Graduate. Mind you, the Spider ran out of fuel and having rescued Katherine Ross from the wedding altar they eloped courtesy of a Greyhound bus.

    Current Alfas do not come any purer, or more rare, than the 4C Coupe and its recently arrived Spider sibling. This year Alfa Romeo in the UK anticipates taking a sizeable allocation from the annual 1000-unit production, testimony to the enduring British love affair with specialist Italian cars.

    Clothed in a lightweight composite metal body, the 4C Coupe — naturally in deep Alfa racing red — this strictly two-seater piece of sculpted automotive art weighs just 895kgs. The attractive kerbweight comes courtesy of a lightweight integral, monocoque carbon fibre shell to which the suspension and centrally located transverse engine/transmission are attached.

    Related: Alfa Romeo 4C Spider

    In terms of dimensions and looks there are hints of Lotus Elise about the 4C, but it is a thing of beauty and a head turner both in terms of aesthetics and the glorious barking noise the 1.75-litre, direct injection, turbocharged 240-horsepower engine makes.

    There is no denying that the 4C presents various challenges. Firstly to afford the £58,308 on-the-road price ticket, including some eye wateringly expensive extras. Our model’s add-ons toted up to £6808 covering the “competizione” red paint job, colour-coded Brembo brake callipers (£350), hip-hugging sports seats (£1400), plus the carbonfibre instrument panel (£350), door mirror covers (£700) and rear spoiler (£1258). Oh, and if you want a First Aid kit, that's an extra 60 quid!

    Secondly, getting into and out of the 4C’s cockpit required tai chi training and the car’s relative width, at a shade over six feet, meant urban car parking involved advanced planning. Not least to provide enough clearance for the doors and that sideways shuffle into and out of the cosy cabin.

    Once on board behind the thankfully flat-bottomed red stitched leather steering wheel, there is a bespoke combination of racing car-like instruments (combining digital and analogue displays) and switchgear.

    Related: New Fiat 500 1.2 Eco enters showrooms

    This covers a four-button cluster denoting neutral, reverse, auto/manual, and the logical figure one when you choose to move off. Oh, and an aircraft throttle-like DNA control lever which provides a choice of all-weather, natural, dynamic or hard core race modes. That progresses from the pragmatic higher gearing, via the go with your own “natural” driving flow, to loosening those fillings and clenching those buttocks with the racing option.

    Fire up the engine and the power unit straddling amidships (just in front of the minimalist boot and just behind your head) bursts into a strident combination of abrasive exhaust note and whirring belts, sounds emphasised through you sharing the central carbon fibre shell with the powertrain. Sound insulation or management of NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) were not design priorities.

    A heated rear screen is not on the options list as the mechanical heat keeps the glass clear, even if rearward vision is somewhat restricted through a pillbox aperture.

    The third challenge is … there's no power steering for the 17-inch front wheels – the rears, in racing style, measure 18-inches – so parking maintains that workout routine, although once on the move there are few more direct and communicative steering systems beyond a race track or rally stage.

    In truth, for most of the 300 miles on board I left the selector in the natural setting and let the 4C adapt to my modest style rather than vice versa. This is a car, which heightens the senses and focuses your attention on all the basics of driving.

    Related: New Fiat 500 1.3 turbodiesel goes on sale

    You have to be involved in this automotive relationship to gain rewards and satisfaction. The throttle response is instant, the brakes require a firm but sensitive right foot, and the steering feels positively alive compared to general, over-assisted, and compensating systems.

    Even without manipulating the wheel-mounted gearchange paddles, the Alfa TCT twin-clutch system flicks up and down the ratios to the accompaniment of that barking, threshing engine note, making you feel like a quick-change pro at the wheel. Finding a tunnel to amplify that ASBO noise in becomes a hooligan quest.

    Zero to 62mph takes a nominal 4.5 seconds and the lightweight Maserati-built coupe will stop in 36 metres; but prepare for 1.25G when doing the heavy stopping bit. And brace yourself if applying the launch control system. Both stats were gleaned on dry, grippy roads and in truth the unevenly surfaced rural routes I experienced threw up challenge number four.

    That was how keenly the Alfa’s steering, suspension and chassis followed the line, camber and terrain of the Tarmac. In the wet, with a surfeit of white lines and cats’ eyes, a degree of caution and anticipation was necessary. Unlike other, mainly German, supercars you have to drive this Modena-assembled thoroughbred rather than have it drive you.

    All of which makes it ultimately more demanding and satisfying. Cruise control would appear to be a heresy, but if a long-distance motorway hike is required the 4C settles down to a tolerable 2500 rpm at the legal limit in the auto box’s otherwise rarely used sixth ratio.

    Related: Fiat debuts new pick-up

    During my time with the 4C, the computer registered a surprisingly high 35mpg, down to the car’s light weight and fairly prudent driving in generally wet or damp conditions. But this automotive rarity is more about stimulating point-to-point sprints than long, wearisome treks and the 40-litre fuel tank (8.8-gallons) keeps the range down.

    The quoted terminal velocity is 160mph, best attained at track days with ear defenders and racing helmet.

    Challenge number-five? Navigating traffic calming, anxiety-heightening speed humps. Thankfully Alfa has catered for these urban obstacles with an anodised skid plate, which makes the graunching noises even at walking pace just about bearable.

    If you choose to throw your budget to the wind, then there is the racing pack for an extra £3250. That brings sports suspension (wear a gum shield and truss), racing tyres, 18 and 19-inch wheels plus an even sportier steering wheel. Remember that Enzo Ferrari used Alfas when establishing the Scuderia Grand Prix operation during the late 1940s.

    Until Signor Marchionne’s born-again new generation of “true” red-blooded Alfas materialises, the 4C provides that halo with looks, sounds and performance, setting it some distance apart from the humble Mitos or Giuliettas currently occupying Alfa Romeo showrooms.

    One all too short week spent adjusting to the scarlet 4C’s challenges and opportunities demonstrated that the spirit behind the combined iconic Milanese flag and serpent logo endures.

    Related: Audi R8 V10 Plus

    Keep up-to-date with all the latest news by following us on

    Hugh Hunston


    Quick Stats
    Price OTR/As Tested £51,500 / £58,308
    Engine / Power: In-line 4cyl, 1742cc, turbocharged, petrol, 6sp dual clutch paddleshift / 237bhp
    How fast?: 0-62mph 4.5sec; / Max 160mph
    How big/heavy?: L3989mm W1864mm H1183mm / 895kg
    How thirsty/CO2?: 41.5mpg combined / 157g/km CO2
    InsGP/Road tax: n/a / Band G
    Alternatives: Porsche Cayman, Lotus Exige S, Audi TT

    User Comments

    Login or register to post comments.
    Send to friend
    Click here to add message:

Car Review Finder